Sutherland Homes for Children
The first part of the following article is extracted from the booklet: “Selina M Sutherland – Her Life Story and Work” by J C Jessop and contributed by Neisha Forbes Plenty Historical Society
Miss Selina Sutherland was the significant person who set up the Sutherland Homes for Children, prior to the organization moving out to the Diamond Creek property owned by Miss Auguste Meglin.
Miss Sutherland in 1880 whilst walking over Princes Bridge, Melbourne, noticed a number of urchins running around at the base of the Bridge, and on enquiring with another lady, Mrs Armour who was also looking at the children playing under the bridge, found that the boys slept under the bridge at night. Miss Meglin with the assistance of Mrs Armour, the widow of a sea-captain who had lived in Tasmania, who had been trying to help waifs and strays of Melbourne since 1874, starting caring for the Children with the assistance of the Scot’s Church. Miss Armour passed away in 1894 and Miss Sutherland continued on her work to care for neglected children and was a very out- spoken and a well known identity in Melbourne advocating for the protection and care for neglected children.
In 1894 ”The Victorian Neglected Children’s Aid Society” was set up along the lines that Selina Sutherland wanted for the care of neglected children. The care of children was carried out in various places, by Miss Sutherland, and in 1904 accommodation at the various Melbourne premises was proving inadequate to meet all the demands.
Miss Meglin’s property
In admiration for the sterling work of Sutherland Homes in her work for destitute children, Miss Auguste Elise Marie Meglin decided in July 1909 to bequeath her 40 acres property to the Society of Sutherland Homes which was later called the Sutherland Homes for Children.
Miss Meglin’s property was a 40 acre farm, on the land which is now on the Corner of Diamond Creek Road, Diamond Creek and Sutherland Road, Plenty. The property included a house, buildings, orchards, vegetable gardens and vineyards.
Miss Meglin also requested that the friends and staff living on the property were looked after, until their death. The balance of the income of her estate was left for the running of Sutherland Homes for Children.
Apart from many other bequeaths in her Will, Miss Meglin also bequeathed Two Thousand Pounds to the Austin Hospital for Incurables at Heidelberg in Victoria, and Ten Thousand Pounds to the Society of Cruelty to Animals in Melbourne.
Miss Meglin had sent for Miss Sutherland and told her that she was willing to make the property available, under certain conditions, as a permanent home for children committed to her care. This offer was subsequently implemented by a legal settlement dated the 17 April, 1909 under which possession of the property was to be given and received in October of the same year. In July, 1909 and before possession had been given, Miss Meglin died, and it was then learned that, in addition to the gift of the property, Miss Meglin had provided in her will that the balance of the income of her estate, after meeting certain annuities should be for the new organization for its work.
Miss Sutherland spoke enthusiastically about her plans, and the tremendous opportunity that now presented itself through the gift of the country home. Unfortunately, Miss Sutherland was stuck down with pleurisy, pneumonia supervened, and she passed away 6 October, 1909. The day of her death was the very day fixed for her to enter into possession of the country home at Diamond Creek. Sister Ellen Sanderson remained Superintendent at Sutherland Homes for Children at Diamond Creek until 1915, and her duties were then transferred to Mrs. Ada Wenborn, who continued on as Matron for the caring of children at Sutherland Homes in Diamond Creek until 1920.
Support from Prime Minister Deakin
Letter written by Alfred Deakin, dated 7 November, 1906 and written whilst he was Prime Minister.
“Miss Sutherland has been for many years the most capable devoted and successful philanthropic worker in this metropolis; she has dedicated her life to the rescue and care of children, saved from the slums, from neglected homes, from starvation and desertion. The value of Miss Sutherland’s noble work, not confined by any limitations of class, creed or colour is simply incalculable, incidentally embracing a great amount of assistance and reformation to the parents and other adults connected with the children who were always nearest to her heart”
Soon after Selina Sutherland’s death a public appeal was launched in Melbourne to enable a suitable monument to be erected over her grave. In May 1910 an imposing granite structure was unveiled at a largely attended ceremony, and on this stone were inscribed the following words:-
“For twenty-eight years an unwearied friend of Melbourne’s poor, the truest helper of its fallen, and the devoted foster mother of all destitute ones, for whom she taught Victoria how to care, having rescued 3,000 waifs from its streets and slums. “She hath done what she could”.
“The devoted foster mother of all destitute little ones, for whom she taught Victoria how to care”.
A dog show, period dress contest, decorated cake contest and a visit by a Veteran Car Club were part of the day’s events to celebrate 75 years of child care at the Sutherland Homes, Plenty in 1983.
Sutherland Homes for Children continued on caring for children, and in 1984 Sutherland Homes for Children merged with Berry Street. Berry Street sold the Sutherland Homes site in 1999, and transferred their operation to Eltham in 2002.
Victorian Honour Roll of Women
In March 2010 Selina Sutherland was among 20 women acknowledged on the Victorian Honour Roll of Women 2010, selected from a field of 128 nominations
The contribution that Miss Meglin and Selina Sutherland made to many many lives in Victoria, especially to the thousands of children who were cared for by the Sutherland Homes for Children, and later in 1984 when Sutherland Homes for Children merged with Berry Street, These women made a significant contribution to the social, culture life and wellbeing for hundreds and thousands of people in the Nillumbik community, and Victoria.
Today the Sutherland’s child care and early learnng centre operates from the site.
Apex host 45 ”Diamond Valley News” 12 March 1974 p, 17
Edwards, Dianne H ”Diamond Valley Story”, Greensborough, Shire of Diamond Valley, 1979 ISBN 0959542205 p. 179.
International Women’s Day launch of Celebrating Nillumbik Women 2008.
Valley honours pioneer ”Diamond Valley Leader” March 31, 2010 p. 13
Plenty News and Views Newsletter of the Plenty Historical Society Vol. 1 No 31 May 2010 p. 3-5